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What is H1B Visa Cap – Regular vs. Masters Quotas, Calculations, Lottery

If you are new to the H1B visa process, you may come across the term many use called as “H1B Cap”. Some of you may wonder, what it means, how is it determined, what is regular cap vs masters cap, how are they set, calculated, what is Singapore and Chile H1B cap, and many such questions. In this article, we cover all those details and look at FAQs as well.

What is H1B Visa Cap ? Meaning ?

In general, “Cap” can mean multiple things like a hat someone wears, or a protective lid, or upper limit. The context of using cap determines the exact meaning of it. In context of H1B visas,  H1B Cap it is nothing but the annual limit set by the US Congress. H1B cap is the maximum number of H1B visas that USCIS can issue in a fiscal year as per Congress.

There are many types of H1B cap, regular cap, US Masters cap, Singapore-Chile Cap. Let’s look at each of them in detail.

What is H1B Regular Cap ? Who Qualifies for it ?

H1B Regular cap or H1B Regular quota cap is nothing but the annual limit set for H1B petitions filed under regular quota. H1B regular quota filing petitions are the ones that generally meet all the requirements of H1B visa. The key difference is that there is no requirement to have US Masters degree to be counted in the regular cap.

Usually, all the general H1B requirements such as bachelors degree, job falling in specialised skills apply here. In some cases, if there is no bachelors, but the candidate has a lot of experience,  each year of education can be equated with 3 years of experience. 

H1B Regular Cap Count ?

US Congress has set an annual limit of 65,000 for H1B regular cap. What it means is that USCIS can issue up to 65,000 H1B visas in a fiscal year. One key thing to note is that, this count of 65,000 also includes 6,800 petitions set aside for Chile-Singapore under free trade agreement and called as H1-B1 program. We will review this in later section.

What is H1B Masters Cap ? Qualification ? Advanced Degree?

H1B Masters cap or H1B Masters’s quota cap is the annual limit that is set by US Congress to file H1B petition under US Masters quota or Advanced Degree Quota. To file under H1B Masters quota or advanced degree quota, the applicant need to have an Advanced Degree like Masters or higher degree such as Ph.D from a US University. You can only file under the advanced degree exemption, if you a Masters degree from US University.

Also, to note, anyone who has obtained an Associate or Bachelor’s degree from US Universities does NOT qualify for this cap. Similarly, a person who has obtained a foreign (i.e. non-US) Master’s degree or higher also does NOT qualify for this.

H1B Masters or Advanced Degree Cap Count ?

US Congress has set an annual limit of 20,000 per fiscal year for US Masters Cap or Advanced Degree cap. What it means is that, USCIS can only issue up to 20,000 H1B Visas for applicants who filed under the US Masters quota.

There are no changes to the cap count for H1B FY 2022 season. There were some discussions done in the past as part of Obama Immigration Reform to increase H1B cap to 110,000, but nothing went far enough to become a law.

You may also watch below short video on H1B cap details.

YouTube video

H1B1 – Singapore – Chile Cap? Free Trade Agreement

As per US Congress, under H1B Regular cap, there are 6,800 H1B Visa slots set aside from the regular quota cap for Singapore and Chile Countries under their Free Trade Agreement. It is usually called the H1B1 Cap. This annual cap is 6,800 and the number is taken out from Regular Cap. Basically it means that effective regular cap petitions quota left after this is 65,000 – 6,800 = 58,200.

The important thing to note is that, any unused H1B1 slots from previous year would be added to the H1B Regular cap of the next fiscal year. In general, the H1B1 quota is heavily under utilised and majority of the H1B1 Slots are added back to the regular quota. Let’s look at how it is calculated.

How is H1B Regular Cap Calculated? Less than 65K ?

Below is the equation that represents how to get the total count for regular quota cap:

  • Let’s say Current fiscal year Regular Cap quota  = XXXX
  • Let’s say Singapore – Chile Free Trade agreement Petitions (H1-B1 Cap) filed in Previous Fiscal Year = YYYY
  • H1B Regular Cap for XXXX = Annual Cap for XXXX (i.e. 65,000)H-1B1 Cap for XXXX (i.e. 6,800) + Unused H-1B1 numbers from Previous year YYYY  + Additional petitions accepted by USCIS as Buffer for denials, rejections, etc.

Important Notes:

  1. The unused H1B1 petitions for the previous year are first added to the cap and consumed. So when USCIS publishes a cap count of X number that number already includes the unused H-1B1 number of the previous year. For official statement on this, look at the second question at this USCIS link. The H-1B1 category is heavily under-utilised. As evident from old FY-09 number, only 700 petitions were used (which means 6,100 petitions were added to FY-10 cap). [FY-09 was the year quota got over within first few days, and this shows the low demand for H-1B1 even when there was a huge demand for H-1B]
  2. USCIS has historically accepted more H-1B petitions than available cap numbers based on the assumption that some petitions will be denied, rejected or withdrawn. USCIS selects about 12% to 15% more than the annual cap to account for denials, withdrawals, etc. You can check H1B Cap Count History for last 10 years to get an idea.
  3. The count of petitions for the current fiscal year only includes petitions that reached USCIS prior to final receipt date (if already declared) and which are either pending processing or have been approved. It doesn’t include any petitions that have already been denied, rejected or withdrawn on the cap publication date.

What are H1B Cap-Exempt Petitions?

In general, when you are submitting H1B petition for the first time for an applicant, they need to go through the annual H1B Cap and lottery as applicable. Once, they are selected in H1B lottery or counted towards cap, then they do not have to go through H1B cap again or H1B lottery again. Such petitions are called Cap Exempt H1B petitions. Also, there are some classes of petitions that fall under cap exempt like universities, etc.

Below are the common cap exempt situations when filing H1B.

  • H1B Extensions to extend the amount of time a current H1B worker may remain in the US
  • H1B Amendment to change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers
  • H1B Transfers to allow current H-1B workers to change employers
  • Concurrent H1B to allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position
  • H1B Cap Exempt Sponsors or employers like non-profit universities, non-profit research or govt research organisations, non-profits related to higher education filing H1B petitions.

All the above listed categories of H1B petitions can be filed anytime during the year, and are not subject to April 1 filing date and October 1 start date.

Common FAQs

Did H1B Cap quota change with Online Registration System ?

No, there are no changes to the H1B cap since the H1B Registration System was introduced. In the past, they were physically accepting all the H1B packages and then doing lottery. Now, they use the online registration system for selecting the Cap required applicants.

How can USCIS Determine that the H1B Cap has Reached ?

USCIS has past data on the H1B rejections, denials, withdrawals for every fiscal year. Based on history, they would select that extra percentage of petitions, so that the H1B Cap is reached and none of the slots are wasted. As per Historical H1B cap reach data, they have selected anywhere from 12% to 15% more H1B applicants than the total 85,000 to account for these.

What is H1B Lottery ? How is it conducted ? Process ?

Firstly, the official term USCIS uses is random selection, people commonly refer to it has H1B lottery. A lottery or random selection situation arises when there are more registrations submitted to USCIS than the required H1B cap of 85,000. USCIS uses random lottery to select the Regular cap applicants first. Later, the unselected Masters cap applicants are put in a pool and second lottery is run to select US masters cap. Read What is H1B Lottery ? Process, How it works

Is the H1B Cap Opened again after being declared as closed?

In general, the answer is No. Except one situation from FY 2021 with the second round lottery, there has never been an instance of cap being opened again once was declared closed.

What do you think of the H1B cap ? Add your thoughts in comments.

   

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62 Comments

  1. Hi ,

    I have recently received my H1B petition documents from my company. In the petition they filed under CAP H-1B Bachelor’s Degree instead of CAP H-1B U.S Master’s Degree or Higher. I have done my Masters in US and doing job here. My H-1B petition was approved . But will this cause any problem in the future?
    Reply to this will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    Thanks
    Harsha

    Reply
  2. HI,

    I want to do 100% Online MS from Arizona state University from India. the University is accredited by HLC, reginal accredited agency. will i be eligible to apply for H1B under Master quota?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • srini,
      Most of the fully online schools degrees are not eligible for Masters Cap quota. You need to check with an attorney or the school on this.

      Reply
      • Thank you Kumar for your reply..

        If I complete 30% Online MS and attend the remaining 70% In Person, will that be eligible for Masters Cap quota.

        Reply
  3. Hello

    After my Bachelors, I was enrolled & finished my PhD in the U.S. using direct track. Am I eligible to file under Master’s Cap??

    Reply
  4. Dear Admins,
    I am planning to pursue an online MBA program from Southern New Hampshire University. The program is accredited by ACBSP. Will I be eligible for the Master’s degree quota in H1B ?

    Are online Master’s degree holders eligible for Advanced Degree exemption in h1b ?

    Reply
  5. Hi,

    I have a 2 years university degree, meaning associate’s degree equivalent in US. Two years ago I tried H1B, at that time I had to prove 6 years of experience to complete 12 points to be eligible to the program (I wasn’t chosen by lottery). Also I recall lawyer said in case of success, I wouldn’t be eligible for green card holder, because I didn’t have the bachelor. In other words, “you can stay in US for 3+3 years (renewing the H1B) but you cannot apply for green card because you haven’t a bachelor degree”.
    I’m considering start a master degree in my country. Considering my associate degree+master degree, do you think is possible to apply for a green card in the future in case of H1B visa success? My point is: afraid of having associate+master degree and even then unable to apply for a green card after 6 years in US (thinking about the happy path, getting an H1B and unable to start the green card process).

    Thank you,
    Rob

    Reply
  6. u have just mentioned how Cap-exempt petitions can be filed but not mentioned what xactly is” cap exempt petition”..is it something free from paying taxes in USA or something else??

    Reply
  7. Hello Saurabh
    I want to know 3 things
    1) When forms of h1b application are filled by attorneys under the Masters quota do they write the CIP CODE for the Masters degree program?
    2) or is there option in the application form for STEM/non STEM masters degree program
    3) In h1b lottery is somehow(like algorithm) preference given to STEM degree programs over NON STEM degree programs?

    Reply
    • NP,

      1. don’t know
      2. I don’t think I-129 has any checkbox to mark it as STEM vs non-STEM. The only checkbox is for AD vs non-AD.
      3. No preference given to STEM over non-STEM. All AD are equal.

      Reply
  8. Hello Saurabh
    I want to know 3 things
    1) When forms of h1b application are filled by attorneys under the Masters quota do they write the CIP CODE for the Masters degree program?
    2) or is there option in the application form for STEM/non STEM masters degree program
    3) In h1b lottery is somehow(like algorithm) preference given to STEM degree programs over NON STEM degree programs?

    Reply
  9. Hi Saurabh,

    I was graduated on Aug 2016 from a U.S university and currently in OPT status. when i graduated, my school was Accredited by [ACICS], but now The US Department of Education has withdrawn its recognition of the ACICS[Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools]. It is no longer an Accredited agency.
    QUESTION:

    1) Whether i am eligible to apply H1B Visa in Master’s cap or not ?

    Actually, at the time when i was awarded my masters degree my school was accredited and no issues. could you please let me know that whether school should be currently accredited when applying h1b in master’s cap or not ?

    2) If in case, I was not eligible applying in master’s cap , can I apply in Regular Cap or any other issues will affect if i apply so.. ?

    Reply
  10. Hi
    I am planning to apply for my OPT and need to know if i set my EAD start date as April 7th, can a potential employer file my H1-B application?

    Reply
    • Brent,
      USCIS does not give that split of applications that were Masters or PhD. All they tell is that more than 20k applications were received in masters quota.

      Reply
  11. hi my name is utsav would i be eligible for H1B visa as a nursing administration because as per forums of USCIS and per google i have done search that which positions are available than they are showing Nurse Practitioner and CNP so Nurse Manager is not included?
    please help me.

    Reply
  12. hi Saurabh

    my question is related (H1B Visa Cap – Masters Quotas).

    1- How can i check for a University name if its international students master graduates are allowed to apply for H1B visa ?
    2- Is it required for such US master degree to be not less than 2 years duration ? i.e. the master degree which I will do is only 12 months.

    Thanx

    Reply
  13. Hello,

    I am currently working in a non-profit organization with more than 7000 employees. I also have a Master degree in Healthcare Administration from Texas. My employer is willing to provide all the documentation required but not willing to pay the visa filing fees. Can I pay the fees and proceed with filing or what are my options?

    Reply
  14. My name is ram. I am going to be graduated from northwestern polytecnic university in 2016 dec . School has accredited uscis till 2018 dec 31. Uscis didnt approve for the new renewel. Would it be a problem for me if i file h1 in 2019 after the school accredation expires?

    Reply
    • Ram,
      It may be…hard to tell. You can call USCIS to understand the implications or setup an infopass appointment with them to get more details.

      Reply
  15. Who Qualifies For H1B Advanced Degree Cap?
    A person who has obtained a U.S. Master’s degree or higher qualifies for this cap. A person who has obtained Associate or Bachelor’s degree from US does NOT qualify for this cap. Similarly, a person who has obtained a foreign (i.e. non-US) Master’s degree or higher also does NOT qualify for this.

    Can you please tell If I have a Master Degree from foreign University and wish to apply for Master in US as well.

    Will I be eligible for H1B after my degree in Master from US ?

    Reply
    • Suresh,

      Are you asking if the person has done Masters from non-US school and also from a US school will s/he be eligible for Advanced Degree cap? In this case, the person would be eligible for AD cap based upon his US Masters degree.

      Reply
    • Hi Saurabh,

      Currently i am in my 4th year of H1B and my employer is not willing to file my GC. So, I am planning to purse my masters along with my current job. Will i be able to apply for my next H1B (after the clock resets) under the advanced degree cap. OR is it mandatory to be on F1 to be eligible for advanced degree cap.

      Reply
      • Sidharth,

        You can avail H-1 in AD cap even though you completed current Masters on H-1B. Just make sure it is from an accredited non-profit school.

        Reply
  16. I am an American and am in a relationship with a Singaporean college teacher. She and I trade off visiting each other about four times per year, which is obviously not ideal.

    We are not quite to the point of marriage, but we would like to live together. She has expressed a desire to live in the States for a year or two, but is not quite ready to sell her Singaporean property.

    What would be easier for her?

    H1B or H1B1?

    She has a master degree from the UK, so it should be fairly easy for her to find a one to two year teaching assignment here in the States.

    Reply
  17. Hi, I currently work for a firm that is applying for an H-1B visa in April. I also have a job offer from another firm who will be applying for a separate H-1B visa for me in April. 2 questions: 1) what are the odds of being selected for the H-1B by at least 1 of the applications based on last year’s data? 2) if I am approved for an H-1B for the firm with the prospective job offer and not approved for my current firm, what is the start date that I can use the H-1B?

    Thanks,
    Chuck

    Reply
  18. Hi,
    I had initiated by H1b for 2014 through a comany X. The company says my petition is approed. But I haven’ got the VISA interview date yet. I also don’t have any documents related to 2014 H1b petition with me. Now my current employer Y wants to intiate H1b for 2015. In this case, if employer X refrains from sharing any info on my 2014 petition, can Y file a new H1b for me without bothering about the transfer?
    I truly appreciate a quick response on this.
    Thank You!!

    Reply
  19. Hi Saurabh,
    This is URGENT – requesting your help on this ASAP.

    I had my H1 b petition approved in June 2006 and valid till June 2009.
    I was in US from June 2007 till Oct 2008 ( 16 months in total) and from there i couldn’t go back to US again and it got expired in June 2009.

    Now i want to know if my new company wants to file my H1 – will it go thru the normal cap or can it go thru the Exempt ( as out of the total six years of the first petition in 2006 – i only spent 16 months in US).

    Regds
    Dhipak

    Reply
  20. I have got H1B approval in Aug 2008 and validity on I-797 shows till Sep 2011. I never attended for visa stamping. Kindly advise whether this Petition is valid for visa stamping in case I find an employer now. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  21. Hi All,

    My current employer processed H1b last year and got stampped with validity till 21st Dec’2013.Again this year they only applied for extention but during decession stage they denied ( not sure why they denied,they mentioned as below)
    “On November 2, 2014, we denied your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, We mailed you a decision notice that explains why we denied your case and your options. Please follow the instructions in the notice”

    so now what i need to do,whether i can expect any hopes bcz they mentioned “follow instructions”(by providing some documents ,will they continue? )or again i need to reinitiate for extension?if so please let me know the process & fee …

    Thanks a lot in advance…
    Venkat

    Reply
  22. Hello Saurabh,

    Please help me with your guidance.

    Here is my visa situation:
    L1 ->2007 to 2012
    H1->2012 to march2013.
    Total 5.5yrs stay.

    i have been in India since April-2013 and now i would like to request my employer to file H1B under cap-exempt and claim un-used 5months. Also request my employer to try a new H1b in April-2015.
    Is it possible that my employer can file a non-cap petition now so i can stay 5months now and then file a fresh H1B in April 2015 ?

    Thanks
    Kumar

    Reply
  23. Hi,
    I m planning to complete my MS with H4 visa. After completion of MS if any employer file my H1b Visa then my H1B application will come under regular H1B or Master H1B category? or only F1 visa holder comes under Master H1B category? If anybody have any helpful link then it would be great.

    I will more than happy if you response my question.

    Thanks,
    Rakesh.

    Reply
  24. hi,
    i am on h1b visa from 2009 on regular cap and i have renew my h1b in 2012 from same company. Now my h1b expired in 2015 after completing my six year. I have master degree from USA too.
    Question :
    Can I apply h1b on academic cap in 2015?

    Reply
  25. I have completed Masters from USA in January 2009, but I didn’t apply for H1B that year, I came back to India, now I want to go back on H1B can I apply on Student cap as I completed the course and have all related documents, please help me, anyone with same situation.

    Reply
  26. All of my friends with a Masters degree (premium and regular processing, both) have received their receipt numbers, but my friends with a Bachelor’s degree haven’t yet heard back. Is there a time lag for these two cases?

    Reply
  27. Hi Saurabh,
    My situation is the same as Niyati’s above. When I approached a lawyer about the same – I was told that if I hadn’t used my H1B in a year after it was approved, I can’t use it under quota exemption. Although I was counted in 2008 quota and had H1B approved – never used this visa since came to the US on L1. Now 2 years out of my 6 years are left on my 2008 H1B, can another employer do a transfer? If there is a USCIS link or attorney link that can point me towards this answer you have given Niyati, I’d greatly appreciate.
    Thanks for all your help.
    IN_7

    Reply
  28. Hi,
    The company that I work for has applied my H1B on Apr 1 2013 and unfortunately I have been a victim of the lottery this time like many others. I have not been told if my application is selected or not nor I there is been any update on my SEVIS number. Does this is mean that my application got rejected? How do I find out the status of my application? I have been in the dark and nobody knows the answer as to when is the deadline for USCIS to respond back to my application. I called USCIS, my attorney and even my company HR but all in vain, nobody knows the answer. My OPT (F1) expires in Aug and I will have make necessary arrangements to leave the country if I am denied H1B visa.
    Please Advice!

    Reply
  29. Hi,

    Could you please help me clarifying this question

    I have had H1 B visa which got expired in end of 2011. It was issued for 3 years from the year of 2008, but I never got chance to fly to USA. So the question is

    ” Is it possible that my expired visa can be renewed by same company or any other companies. Does it has any specific date/time for applying or it can be done during anytime in FY year. And it is possible to renew can any one suggest the process and when it is applicable ”

    Here main thing is I have never traveled however my visa was stamped on passport and was given all required documents like I979, LCA etc.

    Would be really grateful for your advice.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Niyati,
      Same/different employer can file a cap-exempt petition for you on the basis of previously approved petition. This can happen within 6 years of original approva date. The employer will have to file the petition again and submit old petition as proof of already having been accepted in the cap. USCIS will review the petition and approve it. You can then appear for visa stamping and finally travel to US.

      Reply
      • Hi, I got a H1B visa stamped in 2001 validity for 3 year in passport, and due to some unavoidable circumstance I was not able to go to US and work for my employer and the initial visa stamping expired after 3 years . And now Im trying for H1 job again, Should I apply for a new H1B visa or can I transfer the Old H1B visa to my new employer? Does the old one still valid??can it be cap-exampt FY2013-2014? Please let me know.
        One of the consulting company offering for Cap-exampt of h1 transfer against fees. is that workable.

        waiting for a response.

        Reply
        • Nasir,
          You cannot go for H-1 transfer as this visa is from 2001. You need to go through the cap again, w/ next date being April 1, 2014.

          Reply
  30. Employer B filed an H1B-Visa (in May 2012) for me and is under Initial Review.

    Now my current employer A wants to file a L1-Visa for me.

    Will be there be any complications in the process in US consulate or any chances that fliling of L1 may obstruct or cause rejection of my H1B visa?

    Please suggest..it’s urgent.

    Reply
  31. Hi Saurabh/Kumar,

    i have a very different query, i have applied H1B and petition filed on 25th April. Now because of some update, i need to renew my passport.

    shall i go ahead and renew my passport. Will it put any impact on my application if i renew the passport ??

    Just FYI, I am from Mumbai INDIA.

    Thanks,
    Anupam

    Reply
    • Anupam,
      It is ok to get the passport renewed and then appear for stamping w/ the new passport. No impact on the eventual outcome.

      Reply
  32. Hi Saurabh,

    First of all thanks for your earlier responses. I have got an offer for H1B from one desi company A and my application reach 11th June and even I have received the Application number from uscis. I have following queries:-
    1. Employer A has filed the application for internal project. How likely the internal project H1B applications usually get approval? Are there any problems/queries I can face on this?
    2. My current L1B renewal (under RFE) is getting processed through my current employer B with skills mentioned as Linux, Unix support admin where as H1B filed with skills of QA person on Java, J2EE. Does that hurt my application as they might compare the skills on L1B and H1B?
    3. The offer given has salary of 62K for LCA (San Diego), does that meet the minimum wages for this state or the application may directly be rejected if its lower salary?
    4. Would this kind of salary go for EB2 or EB3 for future processing? Can we change that later to file it in the right category?
    5. Are there any other possibilities of rejection? Does the rejection happens directly or RFE query is sent and then amendments can be made to documents like Offer Letter etc.?

    Regards, Vibha

    Reply
    • Vibha,
      1. If the project is genuine then it should be fine. However, if it was used a placeholder then you may run into issues.
      2. As long as you have experience letters etc to show that you possess those skills, it should be fine
      3. I don’t know what the minimum wages are for SD for that job category. Your employer must have got the LCA approved, and that would have been approved for the appropriate minimum wages.
      4. EB-2 or EB-3 depends upon your work experience, education and the offered GC position.
      5. They would usually send out the RFE and your employer can make reasonable changes when responding to it.

      Reply

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